Senior Literature Review Fall 2018

James’s First Presentation


James presented a paper on the epistemic aims of education. This paper is interesting to him because he is working on the difference between education and indoctrination. He is looking for epistemic aims of education that indoctrination seeks to frustrate.

One question we addressed is whether indoctrination has to have a political purpose. Does indoctrination involve teaching false things or does it involve teaching false things for a particular kind of purpose?

Another question concerned how indoctrination works. You can distinguish between:

We also discussed the relationship between curiosity and open mindedness. On the one hand, indoctrination often seeks to suppress the consideration of alternate possibilities. In that respect, it is opposed to open mindedness and curiosity. On the other hand, there are certainly forms of propaganda whose aims seems to be to convince people that there is no way of knowing the truth. This often involves encouraging people to take seriously even the most outlandish conspiracy theories. As long as they wind up saying “who knows?” that can be good enough. It’s not clear if we want to classify this phenomenon as indoctrination or not. We might want to reserve indoctrination for the inculcation of a belief rather than the destruction of belief.


Robertson, Emily. 2009. “The Epistemic Aims of Education.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education, edited by Harvey Siegel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195312881.003.0002.